On October 7, 2023, the ruling regime in Gaza, Hamas, pulled off a surprise assault on Israel. In the early morning hours, Hamas rapidly shot thousands of rockets to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and hit populated areas. Their fighters also flooded over the border, indiscriminately killing innocent civilians and taking hostages. Hundreds of people in Israel were murdered, and thousands more were wounded and traumatized.
Although the timing and the scale of the October 7 attack were a surprise, attacks against Israel have been ongoing for millennia. When we look at the persecution and suffering of the Jewish people throughout history, we realize that this is ultimately not a human struggle. It is a spiritual struggle against the forces of darkness.
You see, God said, “I’m going to create a nation, and they’re going to be a human object lesson of my attributes. It is through Israel I will demonstrate my power and faithfulness. It is through Israel that I’m going to display My lovingkindness. It is through Israel that I’m going to display My sovereignty, and I’m going to make this promise because they are My people: they will endure forever.”
Did you know that Israel is the only nation in the world that has God’s promise of endurance? God hasn’t given that promise to the United States. America is not going to endure forever; we are going to fall at some point. That doesn’t mean we become lackadaisical, and it doesn’t mean we don’t push back, but eventually, America is going to fall. Only Israel, believing Israel, has the promise from God of endurance.
The reason Satan has his sights set on Israel is that if he can destroy Israel, then he can prove that God is incapable of keeping His promises. From the very beginning, Satan has done everything he can to annihilate Israel. He’s done it through human leaders like Pharaoh, Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod, and ultimately, the Antichrist. The Antichrist is the future world leader who will unleash the greatest persecution Israel has ever known, but the Antichrist will not succeed because Jesus Christ is going to return, and He will have the final say in Israel.
Someday, believing Israel—those descendants of Abraham and Isaac who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior–will receive all the promises God has for her. But right now, what we’re witnessing through the ongoing conflicts in Israel is a spiritual evil. It is Satan himself who is empowering terrorist groups and nations to try to wipe Israel from the land, but they will not succeed in their effort. That’s the promise of God.
We need to recognize the spiritual war that is being waged against God’s people in the nation of Israel. As Christians, we stand with the nation of Israel, and we condemn the evil, violent attacks on God’s chosen people.
Most of the attacks we’ve seen throughout Israel’s history are rooted in opposing claims over Israel’s land, claims built on a false theology and a false history. You can read any history book or just pick up a Bible and see—Israel is not a usurper of the land they have. They are the most well-documented group of native inhabitants ever to have occupied a piece of territory. Genesis 15:18–21 shows that God gave them the land they are now defending, dating all the way back to Abraham.
And that’s where the story begins.
1. God’s Call to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)
- The Setting
The setting for this story is the city of Ur. At that time, Ur was a metropolitan city, something like New York or London today. It was a port city in Mesopotamia on the Persian Gulf, bordered by the Euphrates River.
The most important thing to know about Ur of the Chaldeans is that it was a center for idolatry. The descendants of Ham, one of Noah’s sons, had settled in Ur, and they brought with them their idolatry. Although we would like to think Abraham’s family differed from the pagans who lived around them, we find from reading Joshua 24:2–3 that Terah, Abraham’s father, was a maker of idols. Not only that, but Abraham himself was also a worshiper of idols.
This is a key point: God did not look down at Abraham and say, “Abraham, because you’re different from all the other people because you worship Me instead of worshiping pagan gods, I’m going to call you for My purpose.” No, it wasn’t because of Abraham’s righteousness that God called him; it was in spite of his unrighteousness that God called him.
- The Command
God, out of His mercy, chose to save Abraham and gave this command in Genesis 12:1, which says, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.’”
God was saying to Abraham, “I want you to uproot everything you have—your family, your possessions—and I want you to move to a distant land that I will eventually show you. You’re to get up and start moving.”
Think what it must have been like for Abraham to leave everyone and everything familiar to him and go to this unnamed country. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about. God has given you a command. He’s told you clearly what He wants you to do—it may not make any sense, but God has spoken. Remember, when God gives a command, that command doesn’t always make sense, but it is always accompanied by a promise. I’ll talk more about the promises God makes to us later. But first, let’s look at God’s promise to Abraham.
- The Covenant
In Genesis 12:2–3, we find God’s promise to Abraham that followed His command.
2. The Content of God’s Covenant With Abraham
- God Promised a Land (Genesis 15:18-21)
- God Promised a Nation (Genesis 17:20-21)
- God Promised a Blessing (Galatians 3:6-8)
3. The Characteristics of the Abrahamic Covenant
- God’s Promise is Literal (Genesis 12:4-5)
God promised Abraham an actual piece of real estate that would be his forever. This promised land, Canaan, is not just some metaphor for heaven in the future. It’s an actual land that would belong to Abraham.
How do I know that? Look at how Abraham responded to the promise, recorded in Genesis 12:4–5. Abraham understood this was a literal promise. He said, “Family, it’s time to pack up and move. We’re headed to this land.” If he thought this promise was talking only about heaven, why would he have gone through all this trouble?
Because he was headed to a literal land that God had promised him. Yes, Abraham WAS looking for heaven, too (Hebrews 11:10). But even though Abraham was looking for a heavenly home, that didn’t negate the fact that he was looking for an earthly home as well.
- God’s Promise is Eternal (Genesis 13:14-15)
In Genesis 13, God reaffirmed to Abraham that the promised land would belong to him and his descendants forever. Forever is a long time. God said to Abraham, “This land is going to be yours and your believing descendants forever.”
- God’s Promise is Unconditional (Psalm 89:30-37)
This promise of an inheritance was an irrevocable promise that God made to Abraham and his descendants 430 years before He gave Moses the law. The law came along later. There was a temporary series of blessings and curses. But even though Israel disobeyed God, their actions in no way negated the promise that God had made to Abraham.
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic covenant is in the way it was ratified before Abraham in Genesis 15. In Abraham’s day, when two kings made a contract with each other, they ratified that contract by taking animals and slicing them down the backbone.
They would put one-half of each animal on one side, and the other half of each animal on the other side, and then the two kings would each take a torch and walk side by side between those animal pieces. It was a way of signifying that this was a bilateral contract, and each king had a responsibility to keep that contract intact. If one of the kings failed to keep his end of the deal, the state of the animals represented what would happen to him: he would lose his life. Each king was saying to the other, “May I lose my life if I don’t keep my end of the bargain.”
God made a contract with Abraham, but how did Abraham know that God would keep His end of the bargain? God told Abraham to get the animals and slice them (vv. 9–10). Abraham knew the drill. But before Abraham and God walked through the animal pieces together, notice what happened.
Genesis 15:12 says, “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.”
Then God repeated His covenant to Abraham. And then look at how He ratified this covenant: “It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces” (v. 17). In other words after Abraham sliced those animals, God put Abraham to sleep. Abraham was in a deep sleep when God took the torch, and God walked between the animal pieces by Himself.
God was signifying that the fulfillment of this covenant didn’t depend on what Abraham did or didn’t do; it was an unconditional promise. It depended only on the faithfulness of God. God made this contract not with Abraham but with Himself.
4. The Abrahamic Covenant And Israel’s Future
Although the Abrahamic covenant was given to Abraham and his believing descendants, it has ramifications for you and me as well. But, even more importantly, we ought to care whether God keeps His promise to Israel because it’s our way of knowing that God is going to keep His promises to us as well.
The same God who can be trusted to keep His promises to Israel is the same God we are depending on to keep His unconditional, eternal promise of salvation to us.
If God changes His covenant with Israel, if God revokes the promise He made to Israel, how do we know He won’t do the same to us? How do we know that one day, when we stand before Him in judgment, God won’t say to us, “Well, I know I told you I was going to save you by grace, but I’ve changed My mind. Now salvation is based on your works, and you don’t have enough.” What’s to keep God from doing that?
It is the character of God Himself.
Full Passage: Genesis 12:1-3